Introduction: Hobbit-Cave Door for Children's Playcave
You know how hobbits live in lovely caves. Also, you know, how kids like to build caves to play in.
Now, if you have a kid that loves to play being a hobbit, of course the play-cave needs a door fit for a hobbit cave!
With Christmas approaching, it was a great opportunity to build this hobbit-door as a present. The main reference is indeed Bilbo’s hobbit cave from the movies. So, a green door with a golden knob in the middle and some bricks around.
A rough sketch and some size measurements later, the build started!
The aim was to build the door as manageable as possible for the kids to play with and to possibly store it. So, it had to be light weight, stable and it needed to have flexible stands.
Also, Bilbo’s door opens to the inside (since otherwise, how could one stumble right into a master burglars’ home?); here I built it to open to the outside to make it easy for kids to get out of tense situations in the cave.
Lastly, gathering the materials dictated the direction of this build. Our local builder’s supply was not a great help, so I had to go for model building materials. For these reasons, and as hobbits love to put their personal touch on everything, so I did with this door.
- Abachi veneer strips 1.5 mm, 25x100 cm (or any other wood strips you have around)
- joint frame 80x80 cm, white
- 2 pieces foamboard 10 mm, 70x100 cm
- a piece styrodur 40x330x600 mm, dark grey (white would have been easier to paint)
- stretcher bars: 4 x 42x20 mm, 40 cm plus 2 42x20 mm, 50 cm
- model building glue (UHU Hart)
- glue gun and matching glue sticks
- acrylic guache paint: yellow, vermilion, green, dark brown
- 2 doorknobs and 1 screw with no heads to join them
- gold spray paint
- paint brushes
- 4 smaller hinges; I took plastic ones for they were the most stable one I got
- 1 large hinge for the door
- treaded screws (45 mm and 30 mm length), size as needed for the hinges
- washers and nuts for the threaded screws
- power tools: jigsaw (blade for foam plastics), drill (for wood and multipurpose drill)
- scissors, cutter knifeas needed
- pencils (plus thread and a pin to draw a nice circle)
Step 1: Preparing the Frame and Stands
The measurements of the frame are transferred to one of the foamboards. Then, the foamboard I cut in half, shortened and given a try for the fit in the frame. From the off-cuts, 2 pieces to fill the gap between the larger pieces are made. Also, some strips as high as the piecing parts to join them later are cut. This will become the lintel and doorstep on the inside.
The foamboard was cut using a jigsaw. It is possible to cut it by hand, but power tools make one’s life easier here. There are cutter blades for cutting foam plastics: With this Makita jigsaw the blade’s specification is B23; if one uses a thicker board, it’s B33.
To assemble the stands, for each, two stretcher bars are joined in a 90° angle and glued. Then, one of the longer stretcher bars is put in a sharp angle to join the others to a triangle. This is also glued in place. For mounting the hinges, with a wood drill, I prepared 4 holes where said hinges are being set.
The hinges fold in, so prepare to get confused 2 times, before getting them right. When happy with the placement, again with the wood drill, holes are prepared on the frame to mount the hinges to the frame.
After the holes are done, splinters are sanded down. The stands, hinges and frame can be joined. Washers and nuts sit on the outside and the screws get fastened tightly. To combat the momentum of the door when open, heavy metal bars from the hardware store are added at the end of the build. This weight is a quick fix to counteract the forces; heavier stands are the better option here!
Before assembling the foamboard pieces to the frame, a bit of space needs to be cut out to fit the hinges, if they’re as thick as the ones I used here.
Now it is assembly time! Making use of the model building glue, the foamboard is mounted to the wooden frame. Some heavy books are being used as weights until the glue is dry.
The door hinge also needs some prepared holes, before the door can be attached. This hinge will open to the outside and is set snuggly between the wooden frame and the front of the foamboard frame. To reinforce the hinge, a lintel piece is also prepared to be build in.
Step 2: Preparing the Door
With the use of the pencil with a thread and a needle, it is pretty neat to draw a circle of 70 cm on the 2nd foamboard. This will become the door. Then it’s cut it out with the jigsaw.
For a more realistic door-like look, I ripped the veneer (by hand, no cutting needed) lengthwise. The aim was not to make them look perfect, but natural. With heavy duty glue, the slats and the door are joined. In between the wooden pieces, a bit of a gap gives the impression of the door being made from solid wood.
Now, books get a different good use than reading! After a layer of newspaper is put on the glued wood, the books act as weights to put even pressure on the glue when drying. The wooden pieces are not cut to fit the circle yet; actually it was easier to cut them to shape with scissors when all was dry.
As a nice multi-use paint, Acrylic paint was my go to. The cardboard on the foamboard was not as happy with this idea, as I was because it’s too slippery. But, with the viscosity of acrylic paint, there was a workaround for the gaps between the wooden strips.
Bilbo’s door is green, so to get a nice green tint, a bit of brown was added to the bright green. With a large paintbrush, the green was put on. In between the wooden strips, where wood paint is usually weathered, more brown was added to the paint. With a smaller paintbrush, I filled in the gaps. Also, I used the darker green to weather the area around the doorknob since in reality this would be darkened after use. The brushes are quite hard, so the thick layer of acrylic paint had a little bit of structure to it in the end. Also, the wooden knobs got a few layers of golden spray-paint. Break time, everything needs to dry.
Step 3: Decorating the Frame
From the rest of the veneer strips, I cut a ton of small shingles to make up the top of the doorframe. It was easiest to break the strips lengthwise and cut the small pieces with a pair of scissors. To make sure, there are enough shingles, they can be layerd on already without glue. Just to get an idea.
The shingles are glued on, one by one, with the glue gun. It took a fair amount of time, but the result was worth it! Then, shingles were glued around the entrance hole to become brick stones later. These were a little bigger and had more space in between them. After the glue was dry, the rough edges were sanded down by hand.
The bottom part is covered with the styrodur-cobble stones. This is cut with the jigsaw (same blade as before) into thinner pieces (around half the thickness of the original board) and into similarly sized blocks. Tough, to make the blocks looking organically, the sizes varied a fair bit in the end. Here, a rough layout also helps to avoid cutting too many fake stones.
After cutting the stones to size, they were shaped using a cutter knife and P80 sand paper. Trying smaller grain sizes didn’t work, they ripped out even more foam.
Also, the styrodur stones could now be glued into place with the glue gun. Laying out the placement first really smoothed this process, as they had to accommodate space for the door.
Step 4: Assembly and Finishing Decor
After the glue from the stones and shingles was dry, the door could be mounted to the hinge. Also, the doorknobs were put in place. After a try, centring them, it did not come out as nicely, as imagined. Opening the door this way put too much pressure on the hinge. So, the placement was done at the side. A few quick paint touch-ups to hide the screws were done immediately.
(To hide the holes from the first try-out hinge (too small), some plaster with green acrylic paint was used and also painted when dry.) The last step of preparation is to remove all visible residues from the glue with tweezers or a cutter knife, to give everything a well finished look.
Now, it’s time for the paint job. All is done in acrylic paint, mixed in various shades: Dark brown for the space between the bricks, red and brown in various shades for the bricks themselves; yellow with a touch of brown for the gaps between the stones to get a plaster like look, some green for plants growing on the stones. The inside is painted simple: Brown/red for the lintel and doorstep; the bricks are indicated by a red/brown ring around the door. The rest of the wall is green.
And it's done!
One of the best presents for Christmas, I ever made by hand!
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